Maybe, in retrospect, that was exactly how this season was supposed to end. The Nebraska basketball team went to Chicago for the Big Ten Tournament, looking to extend their season by at least a day and finish a sour season on something of a sweet note. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. The Penn State Nittany Lions, behind 29 points from their All-Conference star D.J. Newbill, ended the Huskers season 68-65.
The end of the season brings with it questions of whether or not the mercurial Husker star, Terran Petteway will return for his senior season. Will he return for his senior season? Will he leave early to pursue a professional career? It’ll be a couple of weeks before we know for sure. Petteway’s situation isn’t necessarilly as cut and dry as it may seem. The widely held belief is that he’ll be a late second round pick, if he gets picked at all, but considering the much publicized health concerns his mother is going through and that he will be graduating in May, there may not be much reason for his to return beyond just liking his teammates and wanting to make one more run at the NCAA Tournament. The question remains, however, how much better can he get. He’s put up two years of nearly identical play. At age 23, how much can he improve to move him onto next year’s draft board?
Despite the speculation of whether Petteway will return or not, Head Coach Tim Miles still sees a lot to be excited for on next year’s team.
"You know, I'm excited about our future." Miles said. "We've got an excellent recruiting class coming in, a couple Chicago kids, Ed Murrow and Glynn Watson. … Michael Jacobson just lost in the Iowa State tournament today, and then of course Andrew White, III was one of Virginia's best players his senior year of high school and played at Kansas and has been sitting out this year. So I think we're going to add some real talent, and every program has retraction or whatever we call it, restructuring, transfers, so we'll see what happens here at the end of the year with our year‐end meetings, but I'm really excited about what we're building."
While the future presents a lot for Nebraska fans and coaches to look forward to, today’s matchup vs. Penn State hopefully wasn’t a preview. The Huskers, as they have so many times saw their opponent build a large lead. The Huskers, after trailing PSU by six at halftime saw them push that lead to 16, 51-35. The Huskers usual stuggles, mainly shooting, saw them struggle to keep up, and PSU was shooting very well to start the half.
The last time these two teams met, the Huskers also saw Penn State build a big lead. The Huskers broke out a full court press for the first time this season that caused PSU all sorts of trouble and nearly led them all the way back.
Faced with a similar circumstance, the Huskers broke out the press again, cutting the 16 point deficit to two with a 14-0 run. After PSU stopped the run, the game was tight nearly the rest of the way. The Huskers used a tactic they used effectively much of last year to get back in the game. They attacked the rim, getting to the foul line 31 times, drawing the game to 66-65 after a pair of Petteway free throws.
One the ensuing defensive possession, the Huskers forced Newbill into a wild running shot that he missed, but David Rivers could not corrall the rebound. The ball found its way to PSU’s Geno Thorpe who hit two free throws, putting the Nittany Lions up three with four seconds remaining. The Huskers got the ball up to the three point line, but Shield’s attempt fell short, as did the Huskers attempt at a comeback.
The season was over.
Miles now turns his attention to next season and recruiting, looking to avoid a repeat of what happened this season now past. "Like I told them," Miles said, " how you regroup and handle yourself, losing doesn't make you a loser, winning doesn't make you a winner. How you handle yourself with dignity and how we respond from this as a team and as a program and these other guys moving on really is what matters most."
We will have to wait until November to see how NU does handle the disappointment of this season, but Miles remains confident: "I'm excited about where we're going. I think we'll be back. I'd say get us while you can."